In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Twenty-fourth up are the San Jose Sharks who are in their 28th year as a franchise. They have now made the playoffs for four straight seasons and are three years removed from a trip to Lord Stanley’s Cup finals where they lost to the Penguins in six games.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 6th
- Goals for Rank: 2nd
- Goals against Rank: 21st
- PP Rank: 6th
- PK Rank: 15th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 8th
- Western Conference Standings: 3rd
- Pacific Division Standings: 2nd
- Coach: Peter DeBoer (fifth season with the Sharks; 183-113-32 regular season; 32-28 playoffs; 400-313-109 regular season; 46-38 playoffs)
On offense, the stats above tell the tale. They were sixth in the league in shots for and 2nd in the league in goals for. They had seven players with over 50 points (Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Timo Meier, Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane, Kevin Labanc and Joe Thornton). Losing Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi will hurt the offense but they have depth to still be an above average team offensively. Obviously the team continues to dip into the fountain of youth with 40 year old Joe Thornton who signed another 1 year deal but they have Logan Couture and Evander Kane in primes of their career and tutoring up and coming Timo Meier (22 years old) and Kevin Labanc (23 years old). I will mention I’m bullish on Kevin Labanc. With 17 goals, 20 power play points, 66 hits and a 13% scoring last season he was a presence in front of the net and I think he can continue to impress. This team will go three lines deep with players who can inflict damage on opposing teams.
Defensively, this team allowed the 2nd fewest shots against last year. Having two of the top four defensemen in the league with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson certainly gives strength. The team opted to split them up putting Marc-Edouard Vlasic with one and Brenden Dillon with the other (likewise with the Power Play). This team did not have to rely much on blocked shots, they instead went a different route. San Jose had the 5th most takeaways last year behind Vegas, Carolina, Calgary and Florida.
In net, Martin Jones played 62 games where he won 36 of them with a 2.94 GAA and a .896 SV% (both outside the top 30). Prior to this year, Martin’s worst numbers were 2.54 and a .906, I’m inclined to think this was a one year blip and he will return to being an average goalie. He was quoted last year saying “You want to go out and make a difference,” he said. “But as a goalie, you need to have more patience and let the game come to you. You can’t race out and make 30 saves in the first period. You have to take what comes to you.” I’m taking him late in drafts where I can as a bounce back candidate.
Behind the bench, Peter DeBoer did not make a single playoff in his three years with the Panthers (2008-2011), with the New Jersey Devils (2011-2015) he made the Stanley Cup Finals his first year but missed the playoffs the next four years and now he has now made the playoffs all four years with the Sharks. While the team does have some young talent, they also are still in this fragile window to win a cup, the extension rumors last spring have me feeling that the organization is split on him and this year will tell quite a lot.
- Joe Pavelski
- Joonas Doonskoi
Prospects and Picks
Ryan Merkley – Drafted 21st overall in the 2018 draft, Ryan was in the OHL for four years with the Guelph Storm and Peterborough Petes scoring almost exactly a point per game over that time (193 points in 188 games). He was up in the AHL for a brief stint last season scoring no points across two regular season games and four playoff games with the San Jose Barracuda. I think we could see him come up late in the season and while he’s a good prospect, he will be more of a slow build than an immediate impact player.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Kevin LaBanc — Not to harp too much more on this but Kevin looked absolutely dominant last year at points. First, a player who will mix it up in front of the net will always find chances in the modern NHL and that role is often overviewed in lieu of quick hands and release. Kevin was one of the top scorers in the OHL with the Barrie Colts in 2015 putting up 127 points, over the last three seasons with the Sharks he has seen his points go up from 20 to 56 and at the same time. Kevin being on the top line with Logan Couture and Timo Meier should prove to be a very solid up and coming line in the NHL.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$78.8MM Spent; $2.6MM in Cap room; 22 players signed.